Wednesday, January 22, 2020 

Eric Stephenson's full Newsarama interview on the industry's state

I'd provided a link in an earlier post to an earlier item about Image's chief executive, Eric Stephenson, and what he says about where the medium appears to be going. Now, here's Newsarama's fuller interview where we can highlight more of what he had to tell them. For example, he mentions a certain ideologue who doesn't belong:
Newsarama: Eric, what gets you excited about comics right now? This can be comics themselves, the industry, distribution, anything.

Eric Stephenson: More than anything, I would have to say our potential, and I mean that both as a medium and as an industry.

I look at things like Marjorie Liu sharing a stage with authors like Malcom Galdwell, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Karin Slaughter on a Book Expo America panel moderated by a major media figure like Rachel Maddow, and not only is it exciting to see comics taken seriously, but becoming a bigger part of our culture.
So when somebody like Coates, who exploits comics like Black Panther and Captain America to push his far-left positions, gets so much coverage, and a leftist reporter like Maddow turns up, that's an achievement? Sorry, but I think not. The only real interest such awful people like Maddow could have in comicdom is political opportunities, such as Coates has demonstrated. That's the only reason they're supposedly becoming part of culture, yet the industry continues to implode even as we speak. Stephenson later goes on cite Portland, Oregon and the direct sales market:
I’m not going to rattle off every single store, but Portland really is a great city for comics, and visiting these stores, as well as others around the Pacific Northwest, has been a great reminder of how lucky we are to have the Direct Market. I go to a store pretty much every week, sometimes more often than that, and it’s a lot of fun.

I think the Direct Market is still a vital part of our business and more than that, I think it still has a tremendous amount of potential. Getting comics into other marketplaces is important, and I think doing that is actually to the benefit of the comics specialty market, long-term, but there’s really no substitute for having an entire marketplace to ourselves.
Portland, from what I know, is part of the problem regarding creativity and whom to hire. You have all these faux-auteurs like Greg Rucka spending time in Oregon, and they seem to be the ones who've reduced the major publishers to a situation where you'll only get hired if you've made a name for yourself in the creator-owned market.

And as for the direct market, if there's only one distributor, Diamond, working on much of what's turned out, how can you possibly expect to make a really big impression anywhere? It certainly isn't working to say that there's no substitute when the narrow options jeopardize the ability to market the products wide. If there's only one marketplace for comics, it suggests they see it as the perfect way to monopolize the business to the disadvantage of others. He goes on to talk about new places to sell comics:
Nrama: "New sales channels." I can't leave that hanging - what are you thinking of when you say that?

Stephenson: Places that aren’t currently selling comics, or places that aren’t selling comics in significant numbers.

I know there was some hue and cry over DC’s 100-Page Giant comics recently, but I admire the goal behind that program, which was to get comics into stores that weren’t carrying comics and hopefully create some new readers in the process. I think there’s a way to do that without excluding the Direct Market, but I think it has to be done.

Like I was just saying, I think comic book stores are amazing. I’m a big supporter of the Direct Market, and I think anyone deeply invested in the comics experience is going to get a lot out of visiting their local comic shop, but generally speaking, someone has to already be invested in that experience for that shop to be a destination. Someone has to want to read comics to visit a comic book store, and to my mind, it’s difficult to get people interested in something without exposing it to them.

The more we can expose people to comics outside comics book stores, the better chance we have of getting them into comic book stores. Is that going to happen 100% of the time? Well, no, it’s not. Sometimes people are going to do what I was doing for a while - they’re going to go their bookstore and buy trades and OGNs there. That may not directly benefit comic book stores, the same as kids getting their books directly from Scholastic may not directly benefit comic book stores, but going back to what we were talking about at the start of this interview, comics becoming more commonplace within our culture overall is a good thing.
Well good luck with that. But the way everything's been handled by the Big Two, I don't have much faith in Stephenson to do better if he does believe in maintaining a poor business model. If Image is moving away from the monthly pamphlet format, that's one positive. But I realize a lot of graphic novels may not be printed in massive numbers - like pamphlets, only a few thousand - and if in the end, they're not in high demand that would call for publishing more copies en masse for millions of people, then Image will fail if they go the same route.

If he's alluding to the embarrassment and double-standards DC went by in their 100-page giant specials - Tom King's use of jarring violence in a Superman story involving Lois Lane, while women's rear sides were censored in reprints of the 2004 Jeph Loeb/Michael Turner story with Supergirl - that's a perfect reason why the specials don't deserve any success they either do or don't have. Some of the most offensive hypocrisy to come out of their offices of late. Stephenson even says the following about what Image stands for:
Nrama: This is Scott Snyder's first new creator-owned book in a while, and what Scott tells me is the first of many. He hasn't announced who his other projects are with, but I wanted to ask about Image's fostering of creators and relationships. You have some like Mark Millar who have their own line, and others like Kieron Gillen who do creator-owned books through Image, but also other publishers. What are you and Image doing to better your relationship with creators?

Stephenson: Image’s entire business model is based on supporting creators and allowing them to manage their careers in whatever way suits them best as individuals. That’s why Mark Millar has his deal with Netflix, or why Brian K. Vaughan has his deal with Legendary, as opposed to Image setting up some kind of overall deal that puts the company first ahead of the talent.

I’ve said in the past that Image isn’t a one-size-fits-all publisher, and that’s how the company’s founders set things up. If you look at all of them - none of them do things the same way, and they recognized early on that every creator has a different outlook and different needs. Would we like every creator we work with to do every project here? Sure, that would be great - for us - but it’s not necessarily what every creator wants. The goal is to work together in a manner that’s mutually beneficial.
I would like to know if Image would be willing to hire and distribute comics coming from right-wing sources? If partisan politics is how they operate, with Erik Larsen being one of the most notable leftists on their staff, then they're running an awfully small tent, much like the sales chart numbers for their pamphlets.
Nrama: You recently took part in a signing with all the current Image partners. How has the overall dynamic at Image changed, in what the original seven founders set out to do compared to what the company is now?

Stephenson: The content has changed over time, the type of comics Image publishes, but their original intent regarding how the company should function on behalf of both themselves and other creators is very much the same as it ever was.

Something that impressed me about Image from the moment I first heard about it, when Jim Valentino called me up in late 1991 and told me what he Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane, Jim Le, Erik, Marc Silvestri, and Whilce Portacio were doing, is that instead of setting the company up as a way to exploit other creators, they created something that allows everyone involved to enjoy the maximum benefits of their individual success.

Rob had Extreme, Jim Lee Homage Studios, which later became WildStorm, Marc was building Top Cow, and Valentino eventually started Shadowline while Todd built his toy company - Image easily could have existed solely as a clearinghouse for their individual creations, but instead they opened it up to other creators. Whereas other creator-owned ventures had offered better royalties than Marvel or DC, the founders agreed on a deal where Image took a low flat fee per issue on comic books - and by “low” I mean “low four figures” - and zero percent on top of that.

Years later, when trade paperbacks became a bigger part of the business, they adjusted the deal so that Image earned a small percentage on trade sales - with the creator retaining more than four fifths of their books’ profits.

These were guys who were selling comics in the millions and based on the royalties they were getting from Marvel, could calculate out how much the company was earning off things like Spider-Man #1 or X-Force #1 or X-Men #1, so really, it would have been entirely feasible for them to say, “If Marvel and DC are keeping 95%, all we have to offer creators is another 5 or 10% and we’ll be heroes,” but they treated the creators they invited to join Image the way they wanted to be treated themselves.

And I think that is something that doesn’t get emphasized enough, because going all the way back to the beginning, the Image founders were criticized for starting the company to as an act of ego, when really, they just wanted to be treated more fairly and have a bigger say in what was happening with their work.

It’s almost 20 years now, so the significance of this is probably lost on a lot of people today, but Marvel was producing merchandise using their artwork and forget compensation or approval, they weren’t even giving them so much as a single piece of the merch. Not a t-shirt, not a toy – nothing. The creator’s work - not just Rob or Todd or Jim or whoever - but every creator’s work was exploited for the benefit of the company without so much as a “thanks, here are a couple of these t-shirts.” The royalties on the books- and the three books I just listed all sold in excess of a million copies - were doled out in single digit percentages.

Image was set up to be the exact opposite of that, and to this day, that is how Image operates.

When something like The Walking Dead or Saga or Monstress or Deadly Class becomes a huge hit, it is the creator that benefits. Image benefits from creators’ success, but I’ll tell you what, Image has not seen one cent from from a single television or film project. Not Spawn back in the ‘90s, not The Walking Dead, not Happy!, not Deadly Class – all of that goes to the creators. Whatever movie or TV projects based off comics or graphic novels Image publishes may happen in the future – that’s always going to be the case, and that’s something we are all very proud of, so in terms of what the founders set out to do and what the company is now, that’s an incredible achievement.

Someone described the founders to me recently as “advocates for creator’s rights,” and I don’t think that goes far enough. They’re champions. They’re champions for creator’s rights.
Okay, I do agree he's got a point about Marvel screwing over some of the creators when they used their illustrations for promoting merchandise. And I think the first issue of the sans-adjective Spider-Man from 1990 did sell a million, but it was for the premiere issue, if anything, and most issues to follow didn't come close. So what was the achievement? I do know if Marvel used Liefeld's artwork to promote some of their merchandise, that was a big goof if they really believed in quality at the time.
Nrama: The ‘big idea’ of creator-ownership and fair contracts has come up again with the success of HBO’s Watchmen, inspired by the comic book series by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, and John Higgins. Do you have thoughts on this here now in 2020?

Stephenson: Back when DC was doing Before Watchmen I wrote about this extensively on my (now defunct) blog. That was, what? Seven years ago? It’s frustrating that people still don’t seem to get it. When Alan Moore created Watchmen for DC, it was with the understanding that the rights would be returned to him and Dave once it went out of print. That’s not something Alan assumed or my own personal take on the situation - it was public knowledge. DC actually made a big deal out of this. Watchmen was supposed to be a bold step for creator’s rights, and DC was applauded for taking that stance. Then they collected the series and it sold so well they decided to keep it in print forever.

So Alan has every right to be upset, and I’m not sure why everyone has such a hard time understanding that. HBO’s Watchmen is a hit and people seem to like it, so I guess it’s a case of the audience just not wanting it on their conscience while they’re consuming their entertainment. The truth of the matter is, though, is that poor treatment of creators has been part and parcel of the comics industry since the beginning. On one hand, someone today can argue that things were done differently in the past, or that creators knew what they were getting into, but that’s not a viable excuse when in this particular instance the creators were told this deal was going to be different and this would be an improvement on how creators were treated in the past.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: Do you want to be treated like that?

If not, then maybe give some consideration to the perspective of someone - and really, not just someone, but one of the greatest and most influential talents to ever work in this business who was treated that way.
Coming as Watchmen was on the heels of Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns, I figure that was one of the reasons it sold as well as it did, though the main problem is DC became so alarmingly obsessed with the dark angle, they turned Watchmen into as much a bad influence as DRK was primarily for Batman. And since the influence obviously - and tragically - still remains today, that's one more reason why superhero comics will continue to suffer, even if it's not the entire populace who're actually buying foolishly into such an ill-advised approach that's ruined creativity. By contrast, Marvel didn't make Miller's vision for Daredevil the numero uno influence for their universe, by contrast. Those titles they published that were built more noticeably on darkness just spoke for themselves, and Marvel never tried to make Miller's vision represent their line in its entire or deny Matt Murdock moments to be seen smiling and laughing, at least not until the turn of the century when Joe Quesada took over. I've read several stories from DD - Miller's included - where a sense of humor turned up, and have to wonder why DC by contrast seems to consider comedy a problem.

And it's funny Moore would create Watchmen for DC rather than through a clear agreement he would be the owner, first and foremost. His mistake was probably the same case with Miller's Ronin from 1983 too. The subject of creators getting cheated goes back to Siegel/Shuster, but the difference is they succeeded in speaking about their credit for Superman to the wider press, leading to an agreement at DC to give them credit in the issues since the mid-70s. I suspect they wouldn't be so lucky today.
Nrama: I wanted to ask you about the price of comics—$3.99 has become the new standard, with the march to $4.99 going on now. Most of Image's regular-sized titles are $3.99, but then you have Spawn still holding at $2.99 - and Saga at $2.99. I imagine in some respects price point is set by owners of the book, but what are your thoughts on the price of comics?

Stephenson: Overall, I think the majority of comics being published today cost too much, especially if you stop to consider what we’re selling.

And I don’t say that to denigrate the format at all - I think monthly comics can be a great way to experience comics - but I also think readers need to be given something more than a piece of a story or one link in a chain of events when they buy a comic book, and that’s kind of the way things have been going for a while now.

By and large, monthly comics are written with eventual collection in mind, and I think that underserves the format while also shortchanging the reader. Why buy a book every month if you know it’s going to be collected in a few months’ time, especially if you’re going to be paying four or five bucks an issue? We’re forcing people to make a choice, and I think they’re always going to go for the more economical option.

To put it another way, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that sales on monthly comics drop as prices go up. I’ve heard comments from various people within the industry that dedicated fans will pay whatever the price is, but in addition to being a fairly privileged point of view, I think it fails to consider the fact that only selling to those dedicated fans is ultimately a losing proposition.
Of course. The failure to advertise outside the specialty press is another serious error, and I get the feeling DC's supposed attempts to do that in the past decade petered out quietly and quickly. A difference I've noticed in prices for pamphlets and trades is that the former can cost more when you buy all parts of a story, but the trade collection can cost less, certainly if it's a paperback. So why is the industry still wasting money on a format that's no longer proving viable when they can just make a shift to GN-only formats and save a lot more money that way? It wouldn't make it impossible to maintain a universe that's both shared yet each title can be self-contained, and a lot more people would be encouraged to purchase them. I sadly suspect the answer is the corporate greed that's holding till today, and that's why the company wide crossovers are still coming out, since the upper echelons so desperately and cynically want to milk the dwindling audience for all their wallet's worth. And speaking of corporate greed, that could surely explain the following:
Nrama: You say comics cost too much - you've been in the room, and been the decider, as the average price of comics has risen since the 1990s. Why do you think comics cost what they do now, and why do you think they're going up?

Stephenson: There’s a great book that I can’t recommend highly enough to anyone interested in how the industry got where it is right now, called Comic Book Wars. It’s about Marvel in the mid-1990s, how they got into financial trouble, how they got out of it, and how corporate greed almost destroyed not just the company, but the comics industry. That’s not the whole story in terms of why comics cost what they cost, but it provides some valuable context, because in many ways, the problems started with the preparations for Marvel’s sale to New World in 1986.

Over the course of a relatively short period, Marvel’s title count increased and the cover prices on those titles increased, all with an eye toward fattening the company up for sale. By the time New World in turn sold Marvel to Ron Perelman in 1989, the price of their comics had gone from 60¢ to $1, and then Perelman pressured Marvel to add more titles and further increase prices. By the time Image started in 1992, comics were $1.25. That doesn’t sound like a lot now, but again – comics were only 60¢ just six years earlier.

Which is really just a long way of saying that much of what we’re dealing with now is the result of decisions made in the past. I’m not saying comics would still be 60¢ today, or even $1, but it’s likely comics would be less expensive now had things gone differently back then. It’s unfortunate to be looking at all this through the prism of hindsight.
Yep, it looks like corporate greed reached such startling heights, it must've led to the launching of the sans-adjective X-Men series, not because the waters had been tested successfully for audience reception or purchase, but rather, so they could flood the market in hopes addicts and speculators would buy left and right, and they wouldn't have to rely on merit-based marketing at all. Company wide crossovers were clearly another result of this type of conglomerate thinking. And that's why I've come to find corporations so insufferable, because they buy into all these mediums yet don't actually love them if they won't oversee each one and ensure it retains good caretakers. Stephenson later continues to address the format I feel it best to shift over to:
Nrama: Format is also a question - from oversized issues, but also to OGNs. Over the past two years, a number of Image titles have announced plans to segue from single issue releases to OGNs. What are your thoughts on that - and what can you tell creators who are thinking about that decision?

Stephenson: Off the top of my head, I can only think of two books we’ve published that switched from monthly comics to OGNs: Motor Crush and Moonstruck. In both those instances, I think everyone involved agreed the monthly comics weren’t reaching the audience we wanted to reach, but the trades were doing well - and in the case of Moonstruck, markedly better in bookstores - so it seemed like the most logical step forward.

I don’t think that’s going to be the case for every title, but it worked for those books. If it makes sense for other books in the future, then great, but generally speaking, I don’t think comics and graphic novels should be treated as interchangeable. Comics should be written as comics, and graphic novels should be written as graphic novels.

Comics and graphic novels are as separate as television and film. Same medium, different kinds of storytelling. One doesn’t cancel the other out - they both have their pros and cons. Serialized stories can be really engaging entertainment, but not every story benefits from that approach, and vice versa. It all depends on the story and what the talent involved is trying to do with it, what they want to say and how they want to say it. Imposing limitations on the medium and saying, “Well, because we do this, we shouldn’t do that,” seems pretty arbitrary to me.

For a long time, actors valued film work over television work. Going from movies to TV was regarded as a step down, despite the fact the fact that both film and television can yield equal measures of quality and crap. Right now, I feel like that’s something we’re grappling with in comics - that the monthly comic book is somehow inherently inferior to the graphic novel - and I’m not sure limiting our format options or storytelling approaches is in the creative community’s or the industry’s best interests.
Look, I realize pamphlets once worked well enough, but today, they've become a liability, and given many individual series in the past 50 years never sold over a million despite what they'd have you believe, it honestly should've happened much sooner, but nobody in comicdom's ever shown the leadership required to make challenging decisions.
Nrama: From your perspective, are OGNs received better by the booktrade, libraries, and digitally than a collection of serialized comic books?

Stephenson: It all depends on the book, really. Saga does very well for us in bookstores and libraries, and that’s a collection of serialized comic books. Watchmen remains one of the best selling books of all time. Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s Dark Phoenix story seems to be printed over and over again, and is readily available outside comic book stores.

There are plenty of examples of comic books being collected into books that have a pretty far reach outside the Direct Market. Does that mean all trade paperback collections are big sellers outside the comics market? Not at all. Stores pick and choose what they’ll sell, and readers pick and choose what they like. Same goes for OGNs. It’s less about the format and more about the story.
Personally, I wonder why a tale like Dark Phoenix is considered such a big deal. It's not all that different from Miller's DKR, if you ask me, and may be overlooked as a trend setter in the medium, from at least 6 years prior. Chilling. As for story, even if the pamphlets were to make way for OGNs, it wouldn't undermine the story a bit, so long as it's stand-alone in its structure.
Nrama: Eric, let's talk digital comics - both digital sales of comics, and comics originating digitally. You have access to the numbers - are there differences in you see with digital sales compared to print sales?

Stephenson: It depends on the series, but there have been instances where things that do well in print don’t have the same impact digitally. There are also instances when a series does unusually well in digital but print sales don’t match - this happens with some of our older backlist where it might be harder for readers to find print copies - but more commonly, it seems like there are times something will generate a lot of interest in print sales, but the same kind of buzz doesn't translate to the digital edition.
Say, since they speak of numbers, how come no sales figures come up here for digital? Do they really think we're that ignorant? This comparison and contrast of how 2 formats sell is no excuse for lack of a vital element for evaluation. Now, here's something one of the earlier items I linked to was alluding:
Nrama: And hand-in-hand with digital is comics piracy. It was thought for awhile that once buying comics digitally became more accessible, piracy would diminish - but from what I see, it hasn't. What do you see?

Stephenson: Well, I’ll say it again: Comics are too expensive. Print comics are too expensive, and digital comics are too expensive. Looking at what the people who admit to stealing comics content are saying online, it seems pretty obvious that there are more comics coming out than the average person can afford to buy. Are there some people out there who just hoard digital comics, downloading full runs of things just for the satisfaction of having them? Sure, but there are also people who just want to read the comics they like without going broke. Comics used to be cheap entertainment. That’s no longer the case. I’ve literally talked to people who say they’ve always been interested in reading comics, but that it’s too expensive. With digital comics priced the same as print comics, it just becomes part of the same overall problem.
Well like he said, Image has at least 2 publications that went GN-only, so maybe it's about time they got around to making the big decision on where to go next? There's no need to be hesitant. And what an eye-opener about the cost of digital. It's the same as the printed items!
Nrama: From looking inward to looking outward, how do you feel about the health of the comic industry?

Stephenson: Well, like I said when we first started talking, I think we have a lot of potential, but you know, the marketplace has been in decline since the ‘90s. We could talk for hours about exactly why that is, but the bottom line is that the comics industry is in roughly the same state of flux it has been since Diamond became the primary distributor for our marketplace back in 1997. There have been ups and downs since then - but the industry is doing more or less the same things, for better or for worse.

Back in 1997, the top selling comic almost every month was Uncanny X-Men, and around that time, it would have been selling around 160,000 copies or so. Today, House of X #1 was a big launch for Marvel with 185,000 copies sold in the first month – but the difference is that whatever issue of Uncanny X-Men came out in 1997 had one cover. House of X #1 had how many? 30 something? I don’t think we know the actual number there in terms of “real” sales to individual readers, and I worry that if we did, the truth would be shock all of us.
Just like I'm sure Image's digital numbers would! Is that why we weren't presented with any? At least he gets to a point on the matter - too many variant covers that could be avoided, and specialty artists had better acknowledge this.
Nrama: Do you think the industry could come together as a whole and fix some of these overall problems?

Stephenson: I hope so.

There’s been talk recently of putting together some kind of advisory board for the industry, and I think that’s greatly needed at this point. I think coming together as a group and talking about the challenges we all face would be helpful.

Back when Joe Quesada was Editor-In-Chief at Marvel, he frequently said “a rising tide lifts all ships” in reference to how he saw Marvel’s role as an industry leader. Another way he put it, I think, was that a strong industry was dependent on a strong Marvel. Some may criticize those statements as self-serving, but the truth of the matter is that we’re all in this together. It’s a competitive marketplace, so there are going to be winners and losers, but we all lose if the marketplace itself fades away.
Of course Quesada was self-serving, and considering all the harm he did that resulted in an extremely weakened Marvel, it's regrettable Stephenson wouldn't take issue with that. I just hope he realizes you can't rely solely on Marvel to set an example for the industry, and has ideas of his own how to improve it. All Stephenson has to do is say they'd like to do their best to present an inspiring example that others can learn from, which, if successful, would make Image an industry leader.

And if they're willing to take the challenge of switching to OGNs only, that could certainly be a good start and confirm they're doing something worthy. They'd better get rid of too many leftist political vehicles, though, because if they want anybody to feel encouraged to try their stuff, they need to avoid specializing in stuff that can bring about a divisive atmosphere.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2020 

Destiny and Mystique's lesbian relationship brought to the surface after 4 decades

The leftist Comics Beat wrote a whole puff piece about the history of 2 villainesses both created by Chris Claremont whose roles were mainly notable in X-Men, Destiny and Mystique, who just last year, in History of the Marvel Universe #2 - a publication that's bound to be anything but respectful of prior history - had their lesbian affair depicted clearly for the first time, and the funny thing is how this article actually does bring up the original Ms. Marvel, considering Marvel's mostly thrown her original background out the window these days. And, at the start, it gives some ambiguous information about another character:
Meanwhile, most of Destiny’s time at Marvel has had her appearing only in memory. Otherwise known as Irene Adler, she was murdered by Legion in 1989 (Uncanny X-Men #255) only about eight years after her first appearance. Last year was the 30th anniversary of her death, making her one of the rare characters that has been deceased far longer than she was alive on the page.
Oh, if memory serves, Roger Bochs from Alpha Flight, the original leg-lacking pilot of the Box robot, has been deceased even longer. But for now, I honestly wonder why, even if Legion was under mind control of the Shadow King, the incident needs to be declared murder, considering Destiny was a villainess and plotted to murder senator Robert Kelly in 1981 during the original Days of Future Past storyline? Must it really be described as such if we take that into consideration? Or maybe the real issue is why the exact circumstances aren't brought up here, that Shadow King was truly responsible? Now, the main issue:
2019 also happens to be the first year in which Marvel has allowed conversation around Mystique and Destiny’s long coded relationship to become textual by showing an on-panel kiss between the two in The History of the Marvel Universe #2. Because it’s starting to feel like Destiny might be making a comeback in the comics pretty soon after her admirably brutal flashback appearance in HoX/PoX, now is a great time to brush up on the epic love between Mystique and Destiny.
It's admittedly strange it took them so long to do that. Maybe because they'd done a poor job of it all with Northstar in Alpha Flight, and it wasn't the normalized position on homosexuality per se that scuttled it, but, as mentioned before, the over-the-top approach Scott Lobdell used when he wrote the allegedly groundbreaking story in 1992, when he showed the Major Maple Leaf character going on a rampage out of jealousy. When the sugary article gets around to Carol Danvers, it says:
When Mystique first appeared in Ms. Marvel, she sought to destroy Carol Danvers. This hatred was undefined at first, but we soon discovered that Destiny had warned Raven that if Carol lived then their adopted daughter Rogue would die. However, the issues in which this explanation occurred actually did not see print until several years after the fact, because the Ms. Marvel series ended a few issues prematurely. Thus, the ultimate context of her hatred of Carol was a blank spot for years. In the final issues of the series, we see Mystique bludgeon Carol’s sometimes-boyfriend to death on-panel. While Mystique is still absolutely the villain of the story either way, at least in this version, Mystique’s motivations were defined clearly.
So not only do they acknowledge Carol once had the far better role of Ms. Marvel, they even acknowledge she had a boyfriend (Michael Rossi, a USAF officer), a far cry from the hack job writers like Kelly Sue deConnick turned out, along with last year's movie. As for how much time it took for the last 2 Ms. Marvel stories to be published, it was more than just several years; at least a dozen, in a 2nd volume of the Marvel Super-Heroes anthology around 1992, and I wonder why they didn't specify the location? Next, it says:
A major part of the coding around Mystique and Destiny is the fact that they shared a small house with an adopted child named Rogue who, in her pre-X incarnation, eschewed gender stereotypes. These Ms. Marvel issues not appearing for several years was one thing that might have made it easy for readers of the time to completely miss the subtext between Mystique and Destiny.

The Brotherhood and Freedom Force

During the era in which Destiny made her first official appearance, there was an editorial mandate at Marvel against queer characters. Publishing laws that mostly regulated queer-focus literature to be adult-only content in the USA provided a backbone for this choice. Comics had very nearly ended as a medium overall in the ‘50s due to a book (and several articles by various authors) that claimed comics essentially made kids gay, or at least encouraged homosexuality. We see the after-effects of this even today, as publishers and creators regularly tease, then back away from queer inclusion. Though the industry is doing better, in large part due to an influx of queer fandom and creators over many years, there is still a lot of hesitation around characters that have been portrayed as queer through subtext.
And here's where they sugarcoat the whole subject of homosexuality, to say nothing of hinting they don't see anything wrong with encouraging it as a role model for children. That's pretty much what we see today when there's TV cartoons depicting homosexuality as an acceptable practice that must be respected without question, in contrast to heterosexual marriage, which, if the Arthur example says anything, does not require real respect. Nor is it entirely true most entertainment products "back away" from the oh-so important LGBT inclusion they speak of, though if they did, it's because realize it's simply unpopular with the wider public, and isn't profitable commercially in the long run. Atop all that, it's all these activists care about, while more important issues like Iran's nuclear warfare bear no gravity.

And what do they mean when they say Rogue, in her initial appearances, "eschewed gender stereotypes"? That she'd taken up violent crime? If that's what they're implying, they risk making it sound like that's a great thing. Whereas her defection from criminal activity to reformation with the X-Men probably doesn't defy anything, huh?
Irene’s death in Uncanny X-Men #255 has been covered by a lot of writers in conversation around the “dead lesbian syndrome” trope, but it’s interesting too because it put an end to a lot of Raven’s character development of the time as well. Irene dies when Legion finds her alone, and Mystique is beyond devastated. Irene had urged Forge to go save Mystique, and in the meantime, Legion had taken her life. Irene knew what was going to happen, and chose to save Raven. When Forge apologizes, Mystique holds Destiny’s body and utters the heartbreaking line, “Sorry… is such an… inadequate word.”
While I haven't studied the "dead lesbian syndrome" much, I wonder why that concerns them, but not the "lesbian criminal" syndrome, where it may seem like there's more lesbian than male homosexual villains around. If Mystique and Destiny were men instead of women, would that have been approved? Well if not, it just shows, regardless of whether lesbianism is a poor role model, somebody's not really so concerned about depicting lesbians in an otherwise negative light, in contrast to male homosexuals who may enjoy a better status most of the time (and why does the development of a villainess matter so much, honestly?). But then, they actually do seem to address this issue near the end, though not without more leftist agendas seeping in:
A lot of us are also waiting for a greater attempt from writers to understand them. Mystique’s longterm mourning of her partner has been disregarded and brushed over to the point of chalking it up to being nothing more than the side effect of a vaguely defined mental illness caused by her shapeshifting powers. Yet this is a character we watched try to protect her family at all costs only to lose them. The people around her fail to understand the true devastating pain of a life without Destiny and dismiss their relationship as nothing more than a close friendship. For queer people who have experienced the loss of a partner in a world that fails to acknowledge their relationships, Mystique’s story will read as nothing short of a tragedy.

Specifically poignant for queer readers, the stress Mystique and Destiny feel from the daily attacks on their rights and their lives as mutants and lovers drove them to extreme measures. Though there is little explanation or depth granted this, queer fans have found a lot of allegory there. As we watch our rights be thrown on the chopping block again and again, the psychological effects of such attacks take their toll. Irene and Mystique attempt to self-isolate to protect themselves, using only one another for sources of comfort and refusing to explain their motivations to the world at large. When even that is gone, Mystique is completely at a loss to cope.

The longstanding subtext between these two and the general refusal to make it text or give them any kind of a fulfilling story arc is pretty depressing, and the overt villainization of them by many writers doesn’t do any favors for queer activists in the real world.
Ah, so now it concerns them, does it? Well first, let's remember that no flesh-and-blood human on this earthen existence of ours is a saint and we're all prone to errors big and small. Mystique and Destiny were created as villainesses, and if the buffoon who penned the piece thinks that was a major mistake, she should say so, and complain she thinks Claremont screwed up by making lesbians the villainesses because it's just so easy compared to putting gay men in the same role. And she even whines that LGBT rights are always tossed aside, without any consideration for whether they're being fair to parents with children, let alone heterosexuals.

Now as for the possibility Destiny will be resurrected, there's one problem: given how far the merit of writing's fallen, that's why there's little chance this'll work out artistically, nor will it lead to a sudden resurgence of character development for Mystique, if they really think whatever development she had was written into a corner after Destiny's original demise in 1989. Given these are villainesses, that's why I don't see what the point is of worrying about character drama and development for them, when heroines and lady co-stars are the ones who need it most.

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Monday, January 20, 2020 

Too many X-books makes for too many visions and too much to spend upon

Screen Rant admits Marvel's gone too far yet again with how widely they've spun out series after series from Jonathan Hickman's X-Men titles:
Jonathan Hickman, the man responsible for the current X-Men relaunch, has spoken up to defend the number of comics being published. The X-Men relaunch has proven to be a tremendous success, translating into strong sales. October 2019 delivered the best month in three years for the Direct Market, with Hickman's X-Men, Powers of X, and House of X books all driving sales. The top 10 best-selling comics of 2019 included three X-books.

And yet, Marvel Comics appear to be sabotaging their own success story. The X-books are already double- or triple-shipping each week; one week in December saw no less than five issues release on the very same day. This effectively forces the different X-books into a fairly brutal "Survival of the Fittest," with readers forced to choose which titles to follow.

Jonathan Hickman, the man behind the relaunch, has taken to Twitter to defend the current strategy. "The goal of the X-Office is to build a line where every kind of X-fan can have a book they like," he explained. "The expectation was never that you have to buy 'all the books' to follow along. It never will be. Yes, we've built a cohesive line where everything is interconnected, and yes, we will do X-crossovers and X-tie-ins, but those are the exception and not the rule." In Hickman's view, every reader should "buy what you like. Don't buy what you don't like."
What if the stories in 2 or more titles are all considered good, and the reader can't afford both or more? At 4 dollars-plus, even one series is asking a lot of the buyers. And citation of intentions to do crossovers is hardly the exception nowadays when the rest of Marvel's output is similarly affected.

A writer at Monkey Fighting Robots also has an issue with this, and gives advance notice that:
Marvel Comics have announced that more X-Men comics are due out this year, and a planned Crossover event is scheduled for December.
Anybody understanding the long term damage the crossover obsession led to can take this as a cue to avoid what they have in store by year's end.
With five titles currently on the roster (six if you include Fallen Angels, however, that is due to finish at issue 6 with no firm announcement of restarting) and more titles announced, that’s a lot of X-Men comics for fans to get their teeth into.

So why, then, am I canceling my orders after the sixth issues are released? Simply put: there are just too many.

As Eric Stephenson states in his interview with Newsarama, there are too many comics released every month. With each fighting for readers’ attention and money, this can ultimately be damaging to overall comic sales.
It should be painfully obvious the pamphlet format, releasing monthly in parts instead of in a whole paperback, is the very reason there's too much of everything coming out monthly. Simplify the approach, cease all the crossovers between multiple titles, and there's room for improvement. Advice Marvel's unlikely to take.
In essence, what Marvel is doing with so many X-Men comics on the shelf is alienating a proportion of their readership. An elitist group of people who can, and will, buy all the titles will have an advantage over those who can’t. It also forces some people, like myself, to give up on the entire collection of comics because it is easier to do that than choose between them.

A number of times I’ve been committed to a comic only to get screwed over when it comes to the crossover event. Suddenly I have to buy 20 more comics and catch up on several other titles for the last 6 months to understand what is happening to the characters I enjoy.

Just ditching the event is an option, but one that usually doesn’t work with Marvel or DC because everything leads up to and is resolved in the event. For example, take DC’s New 52 Animal Man and Swamp Thing comics from 2012. Each title had critically acclaimed starts, with Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire proving there was life in the old Vertigo characters. After a year and a half, both titles came together in an overlong crossover event, Rotworld. It was a disaster.

But more than just being a terrible end to two excellent comics, it ruined potential re-reads. As everything was working towards the events in Rotworld, with the stories that started in issue one concluding in the crossover, the disappointing ending diminishes the prospect of re-reading. Why read so many comics when you know you’ll be disappointed at the end. You could stop reading before the end, but then everything is left open with no conclusions. Either way, you are less likely to pick them up over other comics. In fact, I recently gave my copies away because I doubt I will ever read them again.

Therein lies the worry with the current X-Men. If the crossover doesn’t satisfy, for any reason, then the 18 months of comics leading up to it will sit unwanted, on shelves or in boxes. And Marvel Crossover events have not been critical or satisfying successes in recent years, even the last one written by Jonathan Hickman.
That last one was the 2015 Secret Wars, most recent rehash of the 1984 title Jim Shooter oversaw that led to the debacle we're at now. Like I said, that's why the crossover obsession must end, yet no one in the mainstream press ever issues a whisper of complaint about the biggest mistake Shooter ever made from a marketing perspective in his time as Marvel's EIC.

While this commentary has a valid point about crossovers, it's regrettable they apparently don't have an issue with turning Moira MacTaggart into a mutant in the latest example of cheap resort. Again, I just don't get why these writers have no misgivings over using an established character to fill the role instead of crafting a new character to take the same one. That's another reason why superhero comics stumbled. And if there really have to be more than one X-book, they should concern themselves with solo books and miniseries for individual characters like Wolverine, and not just several team books. Too many team books doesn't always provide room for spotlighting individual characters and building a personality for them.

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Sunday, January 19, 2020 

The Schomberg Center's 8th Black comics festival

CBS has a report about the Harlem-based Black Comic Book Festival at the Arthur Schomberg Center. I think it's a great idea, but there's one thing in this article that's troubling, coming from one of the participants:
“It makes me feel comfortable coming here instead of going somewhere to a comic con and not being able to pick out something or a hero that looks like me,”
While I think specialty conventions like these have interesting advantages, I have to question the wisdom of saying only heroes who resemble or look like you matter, along with those who could be representing an ideology. After all, isn't it the story merit that matters first? If somebody's only going to take interest in a particular comic because they see themselves as member of a particular group in it, then this only compounds how meritocracies are being thrown out the window for the sake of identity politics. And demonstrates how the works of past veterans are being shunned for the same.

Which is a terrible shame, of course, showing the sad neglect society's fallen into.

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Jason Aaron repeats his attacks on fans, putting Brie Larson's words into her character's mouth

Screen Rant discovered, but didn't criticize, writer Jason Aaron's insult to fans he'd similarly performed when he was writing Jane Foster as Thor, here taking the words of overrated actress Brie Larson for promoting her mediocre Captain Marvel movie and putting a variation on them into the pages of his 29th Avengers issue:
The series from Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness is currently throwing the Avengers into battle against the Heralds of Galactus, with both sides trying to track down the new (and out of control) Starbrand. Having divided to engage the Heralds, it makes sense for Captain Marvel (in full, flaming binary form) to take on Firelord, the relatively noble-leaning warrior who once served Galactus. But when he gets the upper hand and takes the opportunity to condescend, Carol lets him know that she's had enough, using some specific language to do it:

The reference won't be lost on Captain Marvel fans who witnessed star Brie Larson and her character being attacked for seeming too serious, too grim, too bored, not happy enough -- and a dozen other forms of what many called out for being synonymous with telling women to "smile more." In fact, those criticisms were embraced by fans who quickly created 'smiling' edits of the MCU's male heroes, shared by Larson online. While it wasn't possible for Carol to slam a fist onto the chin of those 'smile more' trolls, the comic book version gets the honor. Especially since Captain Marvel smiled more than any MCU hero, in case anyone doubted the double-standard.
Be that as it may, this messaging is not something that should've been shoved into the comics any more than the movies. The beef at the time was the way Larson took up what seemed to be a rabid feminist position that one should be mad all the time about everything, and it isn't helpful. It just adds a lot of needless political posturing to the whole affair, when we thought this was supposed to be entertainment fare, not an agenda, subtle or otherwise.

Cinema Blend also fawned over this entirely unnecessary jab at men who took issue with the way Larson was going the "angry feminist route", and said:
...The blockbuster starring Oscar-winner Brie Larson was a huge hit among fans as the movie introduced the hero behind the backdrop of Los Angeles in the ‘90s. [...]
The movie may have grossed a billion bucks globally, and almost as much as the Wonder Woman movie domestically, but that did not make it an artistic success, and there were people who, though they did go to see it, came away disappointed from just how much political correctness was shoved in. Notably, the Russo brothers directing the 4th Avengers movie made little use of Larson in the final edit of the film, where she appeared for not much more than several minutes. CB even notes:
Brie Larson memorably clapped back at her haters by reposting a series of photoshopped images of male MCU heroes with shiny smiles on their faces instead of brooding stares such as hers. It made a great point about the double standards often brought upon women to always look happy and therefore more attractive.
Gee, I wonder why they don't think that's an awfully negative trait to frown for the sake of frowning? Let's be clear: of course I don't think it's good for men to frown and be angry at all times. But if not, then women shouldn't have to either. Larson was just trying to dodge criticism of her PC positions, and I didn't like how she used words like "dude" in her critiques either.
The “smile more” line was also part of the Captain Marvel movie itself in a scene where Carol Danvers comes across a stranger who lays the comments on her before she nabs his motorcycle for her escape.
So they're normalizing the notion all men who try to befriend a woman are "toxic". And no clear mention of how the scene in the CM film was actually longer before, showing Larson electrocuting the motorcyclist and demanding his gear before heading off with stolen goods. If the scene were kept in its fuller form, the movie probably would've done less well. The filmmakers must've dropped it because they realized it could give detractors ammunition, and even film critics would've been hard pressed to ignore it.
The numbers certainly showed those trolls because Captain Marvel was the fifth-highest grossing movie of 2019. The movie made $1.128 billion worldwide and audiences gave the film an A grade on CinemaScore. The movie led right into Avengers: Endgame, which would also feature Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers – and it became the biggest movie of all time!

But, someone actually edited the footage to leave out many of the women in the movie. Looks like there’s still an uneven mindset out there concerning male and female dynamics.
Umm, that's pretty ambiguous, I'm afraid. There may have been more footage of Larson, but that's what was certainly left out. You could argue this just a case of a movie that makes big bucks, but doesn't please everybody because of the divisive elements in the script.

And Aaron's injection of jabs at anybody he doesn't agree with regarding meritocracies only suggests he's a lecturing male feminist, which is not a very good position to take up.

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Saturday, January 18, 2020 

A planned Avengers video game's been delayed

Respawn First (via One Angry Gamer) reported that a planned video game from Crystal Dynamics - that same company that bought and later ruined the Tomb Raider franchise - put their upcoming Avengers game on hold because of negative fan reception they actually expected:
Crystal Dynamics is currently dealing with criticism from passionate Marvel fans. There are multiple elements of the new Avengers game that fans don’t agree with. How Iron Man should look and sound, how Thor is boring, how Black Widow looks weird, are just some of the problems many fans have with Marvel’s Avengers game.

There is no pleasing everyone, especially when it comes to hardcore fans of these characters and that is something Crystal Dynamics says it expected. However, that doesn’t mean the studio will ignore genuine criticism and suggestions for improving the game. This is evident by their reaction to Black Widow’s character model. According to Avengers writer Shaun Escayg, the developers expected the game to face backlash from fans, of course, this is 80 years of Marvel history they are playing around with, a history that fans are extremely passionate and opinionated about.
Why weird but not grotesquely masculine? And how come they don't mention a certain cast member created very recently for political purposes - the Muslim Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan - who got top billing when the game was first announced? If there's any character at the moment where it's exceedingly difficult to separate the politics she was built upon from the character herself, it would surely be Khan. Anybody aware of how Sana Amanat, G. Willow Wilson and Saladin Ahmed crafted this ludicrous replacement for Carol Danvers would find it difficult to overlook what the character's come to stand for, more so than any other character of the sort developed at Stan Lee's expense. Mainly because it's always possible the video game designers put in at least some of that.

So if the game's been put on hold until further redevelopment, it'll remain to be seen what remains, and what's altered. Whether they'll make Black Widow more attractively drawn, and drop Khan from the cast of characters. And wonder why the game's producers wanted to take a path that could risk alienating audiences. That's no way to run a business.

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DC seems incapable of selling older archived material successfully

Bleeding Cool recently wrote about DC apparently cancelling quite a few trade collections of older material, which they claim is inexplicably not selling as they go further along with the numbering and consecutive years for the issues collected from decades before, and probably today's too, though that's decidedly a different story. It says here:
DC Comics has traditionally ruled the roost at the bookstore, a reputation for a strong relationship with the bookseller market, with perennials like Watchmen, V For Vendetta, Sandman, Preacher, Killing Joke, The Long Halloween, Hush, All-Star Superman and many more making for constant bestsellers. But of late, there appear to have been quite a lot of cancellations of solicited collections by DC Comics. Some are repackaged in other forms. Others are not.
They posted a statement by -surprise, surprise - Dan DiDio, taken from Facebook, where he said:
We had a very poor 2018 with our collections. It forced us to reevaluate what we were collecting and how, so you saw a lot of changes taking place. If you saw the cancellations that occurred after solicitation, that’s probably because there was no appreciable interest for these titles-meaning that we couldn’t hit the minimum number to justify print. I’d much prefer just to cancel books than to have devalued product out there. We have to find ways to make our collected editions valuable, so that people want to purchase them and put them on a shelf. We also have to reevaluate these collections of six issues and out-when you collect six issues of a periodical regardless if it’s a complete story. You’re going to see more tweaking going forward, but I feel like we’re in a very good place.
My, how odd. I wonder why they had such a poor year or two? If this is the archives dedicated to the Golden/Silver/Bronze/Iron ages, I honestly don't understand...unless DiDio's got some blame to shoulder for his piss-poor management, to say nothing of wasting so much money on all sorts of modern series that get relaunched almost as often as Marvel's been doing with theirs for over a decade. This sorry excuse for a company executive even said:
We’re finding diminishing returns on the books with numbering on spines-they take the same periodical cadence that comes with our regular books. Every subsequent number drops precipitously. The longer those numbers run, the lower and lower those print runs become. Also, I want to make sure we’re clear about what’s in that book. That’s why the title’s more important. I’d like someone to pick it up for the reading experience rather than straight numbering.
Depending on what eras these trade collections are dedicated to, I wonder why the audience would supposedly lose interest? If it's stuff from the aforementioned past ages, I'd argue the consumer's making a huge mistake. If it's more recent stuff, however, including stories written by Brian Bendis and Tom King, you're not missing anything. And if you're wondering about something bad from the 90s that was cancelled, according to what's told on this Reddit thread, a planned 3rd volume for the Kyle Rayner Green Lantern run was cancelled, as also confirmed here.

When it's something that shoddy, I can't say I'm surprised if it didn't hold up. As far as the Ron Marz-penned farce of the 90s goes, it suggests ever since it ran its course, people have re-evaluated, lost interest, don't see it as aging well. Plus, there's the fact it came on the heels of a prior run by Gerard Jones, a scribe who since was imprisoned for a serious felony. I'm guessing that could play into the failure of the Kyle Rayner material as well, because people could be wondering where the prior 1990-93 material is, put 2 and 2 together, and realize it all adds up to a whole shoddy volume, a now classic case of political correctness in more ways than one. There was even a trade collecting Geoff Johns' run on Shazam that got cancelled, which suggests his own influence is thankfully waning, and proves his own work doesn't hold up well in retrospect.

But this still doesn't excuse DiDio's clearly bad management that undoubtably played a part in any trade collection being cancelled, supposedly because numbering turns off the readers. I know the Marvel Epic Collections series usually just puts the numbers on the rear cover, but they still have products with numbering on the spines coming out, including Walt Simonson's well regarded run on Thor in the mid-80s. So there's definitely something selling with spine-based numbers around.

Unfortunately, as I may have noted before, neither DC nor Time Warner as owner will hold DiDio accountable and get him to resign his undeserved position over what's clearly horrid conduct that's undermining sales of older material, and explaining why we're not likely to see trades collecting the original 1983-86 Omega Men for a long time, seeing as it's one example from an era where story quality was considerably better that hasn't seen the light of day again in reprints. The Len Strazewski/Mike Parobeck Justice Society material from the early 90s - which saw the debut of Jesse Quick - is another item that was cancelled and so far hasn't been resolicited. Though in that case, IIRC, they were going to reprint it only in hardcover! Given hardcovers are often more costly than paperbacks, why do they think it's prospects didn't look good? This reliance on too many hardcovers is another problem that's got to end, but not so long as DiDio keeps running the store. An utter disgrace.

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Friday, January 17, 2020 

SyFy Wire thinks the time's come for publishers to rethink the monthly model

Wouldn't you know it, somebody writing for a leading news publication seems to agree with my view that the monthly pamphlet model the industry's been going by for far too long needs to be altered. SyFy Wire has an article making the point something's got to change given how expensive the monthly serial format's become. But it's also got its disappointments, as we'll see along the way:
How I wish comics companies would look at the changes in TV and change the way they do business. Because just as broadcast television seems increasingly archaic with its 22-episode seasonal formula in the age of Netflix, comics seems trapped in the distant past with its monthly comics model. The monthly pull list is a dinosaur, a metaphorical meteorite away from extinction. That doesn't mean there isn't sales value in monthly comics; a look at recent sales charts show titles like the final issue of Doomsday Clock and the third issue of the new X-Men title selling 100,000+ copies. And when Saga comes back, I'm sure that will sell like gangbusters every month. But speaking for me personally, the few single issues I still purchase almost seem like I'm just maintaining a routine from an era that has passed us by.

I just don't have the time, inclination, or money to keep up with the monthly grind.
And without a doubt, no matter what anybody thinks of adventure fiction and serial formats, they're exhausted with it too, when a fully valid option lies before them at the bookstore. But he seems not to notice he's let slip just how low monthly installments really are. Even if that were 200,000 copies, it's still monumentally pathetic compared to film sales with their millions in tickets, and if most TV series with 22 episodes or so are often self-contained with just the occasional two-parter, that's a pretty weak analogy. It gets worse when you see what writers this guy's upholding:
I've primarily become a "wait for the trade" guy so I can read an entire story in a nice, compact single volume. My interest in the story doesn't wane because I'm unable to get to the comics shop to pick up my books, or if there is a delay in shipping (I'm looking right at you, Doomsday Clock!). Trades allow me to binge-read limited series like Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III's The Sandman: Overture, Dan Slott and Michael Allred's Silver Surfer, Tom King and Mitch Gerads' Mister Miracle — or catch up on a series like Saga —and then place it on my bookshelf for the next time I want to re-read greatness. I know many other fans who, for similar reasons, have begun drifting away from monthly comics and sticking to trade paperbacks and hardcovers.
Oh, just brilliant. They just have to go along and whitewash some of the worst writers to litter modern comicdom like Slott, King and surely even Geoff Johns, whose Doomsday Clock evidently saw the kind of delays Kevin Smith caused for his Black Cat miniseries from the early 2000s, because his TV and film jobs - which he doesn't deserve - apparently bear far more importance. Even J. Michael Straczynski may have caused delays for a few of his books for similar reasons, and that's why it doesn't pay to hire celebrities who won't commit to one or the other. Later in the article, it asks:
...Wouldn't it be nice to see Lee and Geoff Johns team up again for another epic 12-issue story that was free of any continuity restraints?
Absolutely NOT. As I've argued before, and will again, Johns is one the worst things to happen to mainstream, and even Lee's not innocent of huge mistakes, ever since he became a senoir employee for DC. I wish these publications would stop lionizing such a pretentious man. And if a story he wrote were that long, it makes it all the more interminable.
As comics sales continue to erode, the industry has to change with the times. The law of diminishing returns practically demands it.
At least here, they're correct something's got to change for improvement. But that's not all. Company wide crossovers - one of the biggest problems kept afloat by the continued use of monthly formats - have to cease as well. And if you're going to make alterations in continuity or anything character related, it must be done title-by-title, individually, without using the approach DC's made alarming use of for a long time, and Marvel too later imitated in some way or other. And SyFy would do well to quit sugarcoating overrated writers whose works only appeal to niche audiences. Story merit counts, as does avoiding cheap sensationalism, which some of the above writers were known for.

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Thursday, January 16, 2020 

A move that won't bring in the moviegoers

Screen Rant talks about DC's upcoming event called 5G, which is supposed to make Wonder Woman the "first" real protagonist in the DCU, but also looks like it's taking a route Marvel already traversed, to no success:
Generation One begins with the Wonder Woman as the first public superhero until the appearance of Superman, which starts the second generation. The third generation spans the time from Crisis on Infinite Earths (1986) to Flashpoint (2011). The fourth-generation would then cover the events of The New 52 through Rebirth - aka the present day. The fifth-generation (5G) is rumored to center around the idea that many of the flagship characters like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman, and will step aside and cede their mantles to replacements to a younger generation.
Well it makes no difference even if it's temporary. What matters is that it's not promoted on merit, and since Dan DiDio's been promoting it, you know something's bound to go wrong. Besides, the earliest failure in this regard was Kyle Rayner as Green Lantern in 1994, and, look what other writers are present for this new direction:
This “smoke” of the beginning of this new continuity is not the first rumblings of DC Comics preparing to transition to the next phase. As a lead into the new Bendis penned Legion of Super-Heroes title, the two-part Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium, which spanned 1,000 years and, for the very first time and connected all of DC’s future timelines. The second mention of a “5G” was in the final pages of the recently completed Doomsday Clock by Geoff Johns. As Doctor Manhattan watches the timeline restore itself, the events which could mark the new rumored generations are shown, and the creation of Earth-5G in January of 2026 is created as “the timeline is restored.” It is also mentioned in the final pages of Doomsday Clock that Wonder Woman fought alongside the Justice League of Society during World War II. This panel coincides with the idea of Wonder Woman’s first public appearance kicking off Generation One of the new timeline.
Wow, just look at the incompetence of the people this site hires. They totally confused Justice Society/League of America through elimination of the word "America". Aside from that, you know something more is bound to be wrong when Bendis and Johns are on board.
Like other continuity relaunches, the concept of the generations defining the history of the universe is a risky move. While choosing Wonder Woman’s first public appearance seems like a strange place to start a timeline, it would coincide with the Wonder Woman film franchise. Thus, having Wonder Woman arriving during World War II and still operating in the present with the contemporary members of the Justice League would provide a logical progression and help streamline the two universes. In theory, by streamlining the comic and movie universes, the publisher may believe that the comic universe will more accessible and appealing to new readers.
Well I'm sorry, but it won't be, because they ruined that soon after DiDio came along. The writers they employ don't have wide appeal, and as I've noted here several times before, specialty store managers and press sources have confirmed the attempts to draw in moviegoers is not working, not even for Marvel. The fault no one seems capable of making clear is that DiDio's an alienating presence, right down to his serving as company spokesperson instead of figurehead EIC Bob Harras, when Marvel usually puts their EIC - currently C.B. Cebulski - front and center, and they don't address whether the writing is talented or not, nor whether these editorial mandates and company wide crossovers are part and parcel of the problem. They obviously assume their audience lacks intelligence to tell when the wool's being pulled over their eyes, and thus continue to make a joke of themselves.

That's why this latest overhyped event won't have any long term success, yet unlike most Japanese businesses whose managers would take responsibility by stepping aside in favor of somebody more responsible, these managers in the US won't show the same responsibility by doing the same. That DC and Marvel are both owned by conglomerates today is only providing them with a further excuse to dodge accountability for their disastrous conduct.

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What Donny Cates thinks of "fanservice"

The Texas Monthly did a podcast interview with Cates, who's been assigned to succeed Jason Aaron as the Thor writer. At the beginning of the accompanying article, he boasts:
“As of right now, I’m the best writer of Thor this decade,” says Cates, a full-time Marvel writer who’s worked on titles like Cosmic Ghost Rider, Thanos, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Silver Surfer Black. “I’m also the only writer of Thor this decade.”
Oh, isn't that clever. But what if he makes use of the kind of elements seen previously in Thor-related materials, like the PC alteration to the Uru hammer inscription, and Bullseye reducing Heimdall to a pagan ghost? And what are the chances he'll be willing to do whatever he can on his part to repair the shambles Joe Quesada rendered to their continuity? I sadly doubt he'll make any positive effort regarding the latter issue, and if he doesn't do anything to correct the other 2 mistakes, that's not somebody I'd consider the "best" writer of anything mainstream superhero-based. On which note, here's what they state about his standing on "fanservice":
2. Cates doesn’t believe in indulging in “fan service”—a term that originated with Japanese anime and manga and means intentionally plotting story lines to please the most rabid sections of your fan base.

“It’s not my job to give you what you want. It is my job to tell you what you want. The phrase that I hate the most in life is when people say, ‘Who asked for this?’ Whether it’s a prequel to Star Wars or some kind of Marvel film, people will ask, ‘Who asked for this?’ But no one ever asked for the first Star Wars. We’re not in the business of giving you what you asked for. That’s where innovation and amazing cool stuff comes from. I’m a very big fan of zigging when people think you’re going to zag.”
Does he even know the exact meaning of "fanservice"? I remember that recently, a few of the sites formerly owned by the awful Gawker network described scenes in the Star Wars-based TV show The Mandalorian as fanservice, such as the inclusion of infant Yoda. But how does that count as fanservice? What if refers to romance and sex, as seen in various manga and anime creations? And on that note, is Cates hinting he doesn't intend to please Marvel purists with romantic moments between Thor and Sif? Or he doesn't intend to reverse the laughable transformation of Jane Foster into a neo-Valkyrie?

His assertion they're not in the business of giving the audience what they ask for is additionally troubling. How do we know he really wants to give everybody the most important aspect of all - entertainment, and even material that can make you think, for all the right reasons? Stuff to make you happy, not sad? And why does he say nobody asked for the 1st Star Wars, by which I assume he means the original back in 1977? If the finished product is enjoyable, that would make it something we are asking for.

Worst, to say he's telling you what you want is tantamount to a lecture, never a good way to run an argument. What the magazine laid out from their interview does nothing to assure Cates is hoping the audience will thrill to his upcoming stories, otherwise, I figure he'd say he hopes what he has in store will leave the readers smiling, cheering, and maybe even thinking. So based on this, alas, he hasn't succeeded in convincing he wants to restore trust of anybody who loves Marvel as it used to be. Which has been pretty much what you could expect for years already from the writers Marvel's hired.

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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